Authors: Shane Morgan
Why were cops always late?
Smartly, he covered the left side of his
face with one hand as he headed for the door. Then he left, as easily as he’d
How had he gotten by the security alarm
again without it going off? I’d changed the codes. It was obvious he knew about
the cameras too.
What the hell! Who was that guy?
When I reached my apartment, the cops
were outside the door looking perplexed. I had to explain everything to them. I
showed them the camera footage of my admirer snooping around my room, and then
they went through the stuff that he’d left in the box: kinky lingerie, a
leather cat suit, blindfolds, handcuffs, and a long whip.
. This guy was a
piece of work.
What a freak.
I wanted to snap at one of the officers
for the sleazy grin he had a hard time hiding as he went through the stuff.
Of course, once again, they said there
wasn’t anything they could do because they didn’t have a name or face to start
I told them about my theory of the
apartment being bugged, since the guy had known how to evade my security. They
checked around the place but found nothing.
There was no way I could stay in the
apartment that night. An alarm didn’t faze the moron, much less cameras. He
seemed unstoppable. It made every shred of safety that I’d once felt inside my
cozy apartment slip away.
Not long after the officers left, I
caved and called my dad. He was freaking out. I packed a few things into a
duffle bag and drove for ten minutes until I reached Dad’s condo in Middletown.
The second I parked in the garage and
ran up the entrance, he yanked the door open and wrapped me in his protective
“Sweetheart.” Easing me away, he asked,
“Are you all right? Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?”
I stepped inside and shut the door, then
peered around the contemporary space. He’d painted over the white walls in the
living room with a light blue and had finally added a small table with two
chairs in the kitchenette. This was the most he’d done to the place since
moving in after the divorce.
“I’m fine,” I said, looking back at him.
“I didn’t want to worry you.”
He took my bag from me and ushered me
over to the leather couch. He continued to question me when we sat down. “What did
the police say?”
“That there isn’t anything they can do
at the moment. This guy is smooth. He’s so hard to catch.” I wobbled my head,
frustrated. “He could be anyone, Dad. Someone I’ve passed on the streets and
had no idea.”
Dad hunched over and combed a hand
through his graying auburn hair. “What about Tyler?”
“The cops questioned him. He has nothing
to do with this. I know it’s not him.”
“My god, Bristol…” he sighed in
distress. “How many times has this guy broken into your apartment?”
I gulped, nervous about telling him the
His head shot up. “How many?” he asked
“This is the third time I know of,” I
replied in a murmur. “But who knows how many are unaccounted for.”
The muscles in his face went rigid. His
nostrils flared. “What the hell, Bristol?” he scolded. “Why were you still
The moment you realized it you should have left. What if he’d broken in while
you were there and tried to hurt you?”
A sharp breath rushed from my lips as I
remembered that he
been there with me before, to watch me shower.
Dad didn’t need to hear that.
Feeling worn out, I dropped my head back
against the cushion. “I know. I just…I didn’t want anyone to scare me out of my
apartment. It’s the first thing I got without anyone’s help and I was really
proud of that, you know?”
Dad hopped up, appearing even more
upset. “You—” He stopped and spoke in a calmer voice. “I know what you’re
saying, but you should have told me what was going on.”
I noticed how troubled he was and guilt
started to jab me. I hated making anyone worry. Dad cursed under his breath
before picking up my bag, and then he stalked off down the hall to the spare
My cellphone rang inside my jeans pocket
shortly after. When I pulled it out, I saw Mason’s name on the screen. He was
the first person I’d wanted to call when I saw that creep in my apartment, but
I’d decided against it when I remembered that his car was damaged because of
Sitting out on the couch, I answered the
“Bristol, are you okay? I heard what happened.”
The urgency in his voice triggered a hurricane of emotions.
I fought to squash my growing desire so
I could get my words out. “Yeah. My admirer was at it again.”
I heard Dad coming back down the hallway
and peered over my shoulder at him. Noticing I was on the phone, he walked to
the kitchenette and started the coffee maker.
Standing, I turned my back, then lowered
my voice so Dad couldn’t hear what I had to tell Mason. “He knew about the
cameras, just like he knew the security codes to slip past the alarm.”
“What? You think he has the apartment
rigged?” Mason asked, astonished.
“I mentioned it to the cops earlier.
They didn’t find anything. Still, how did he know where to avoid looking? It
must be that.”
He expelled a long breath before he
spoke again. “I’ll stop by. We’ll take a look around the apartment.”
“Actually, I’m at my dad’s,” I told him.
“Oh, you finally decided to leave.”
Satisfaction was evident in his voice. “It’s for the best, Bristol. The apartment
I rubbed the back of my neck. “I know,
especially after seeing him there for myself.”
“So, what did he do?” Mason sounded so
My cheeks started to feel hot. There was
no way I’d tell him the details. “He just…looked through my stuff.”
“I see.” He took the hint. “How about we
stop by your apartment tomorrow and check for bugs?”
I nodded while I answered, “Yeah. What
“Around noon. I’ll be off then.”
“Thanks, Mason.” I smiled. No matter how
much I feared putting him in danger, I really wanted to see him again; being
around Mason felt so nice, like a breath of fresh air.
“It’s no problem, Bristol, just—”
“Doing your job?” I repeated his words
to him while frowning.
He snorted. “No. More like trying to
help you find some peace.”
That sounded better. “Thank you.”
When I ended the call and spun around,
Dad was sitting at the island watching me with a quizzical look. “Who was
that?” he asked as I moseyed over.
I leaned against the island. “A friend
that’s a cop. He’s been helping me.”
Dad’s face softened. “That’s good. If
you’re hungry I’ll order pizza.”
“Order pizza?” I dipped my head and
peered up at him. “Dad, that’s not going to happen while I’m here. It’s not
often that I come over. I’ll cook dinner.”
He seemed pleased by that, grinning. “Be
my guest. At least you’re a better cook than I am.”
“You don’t even try.”
He smirked. “I hate cooking. If I ever
do, it’s always pasta.”
Shaking my head at him, I chuckled and
moved over to the fridge to find something to make dinner.
“Since you’re in town, you should visit
your mother,” he advised.
I stared at him sideways. “I have a lot
on my plate right now, Dad. I don’t need Mom’s antics too.”
His lips curved down into a frown.
“She’ll keep thinking it’s me turning you against her. I thought you wanted us
to get along.”
Taking out vegetables and boneless
chicken tenders, I closed the fridge door and stood at the counter. “I’ll call
her in the morning,” I replied with my back turned, placing the meat in the
microwave to defrost.
“Good,” he said. “I’m sure she misses
“I won’t tell her about what’s going on.
She’ll make it a bigger deal than it is.”
a big deal, Bristol,” Dad
retorted in a serious tone.
Imprisoned by denial, I looked at him
and said, “It’s just a guy with a crush.”
His features went hard, eyes burning red
with fury. “A crush? Bristol, breaking into a girl’s apartment and scaring her
isn’t a crush.”
He flared his hand, cutting me off.
“Stay here until they arrest the bastard.”
“Don’t argue with me, Bristol. You can’t
go back to your apartment, not until it’s safe. Do you understand?”
I bobbed apprehensively.
He slid off the stool and treaded over
to the living room. Sitting on the couch, he started to skim over the
blueprints sprawled across the coffee table that I’d noticed earlier.
Dad was right. My apartment wasn’t the
safest place right now, but I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that
leaving meant my admirer was winning. I’d be damned if I let him win.
On Saturday morning
I prepared breakfast and we ate together before Dad left for his construction
gig in Fall River, almost half an hour drive from Middletown. I didn’t tell him
that I was meeting Mason later at my apartment.
I washed the few dishes and killed time
at the condo before taking off around noon. Mason was waiting by his rental car
when I pulled into the parking lot. I felt a little displeased that he’d
already changed out of his uniform. My friends were right, he looked great in
He was still sexy in his casual shirt and
jeans though. I bit my bottom lip as I imagined ripping off his clothes and
ravaging the greatness he was surely hiding underneath.
attraction was intense.
Mason flashed a tender smile as I
approached. “Hey. How are you doing?”
I drifted back to my senses. “I’ve had
better days. Shall we?” I nodded toward the building and started for the
entrance. Mason followed.
“So, did they find any leads in the
stuff he left yesterday?” I asked as we ascended the stairs.
“No,” he answered, regretful. “No
prints. Nothing. Not even a lead to where he might have purchased them.”
“Yeah, I’m not surprised to hear that,”
I mumbled. I was starting to feel so hopeless, like this ordeal would never
We turned down the hallway and continued
to my door. I drew in a long breath and exhaled slowly before unlocking it.
Mason entered first, just in case.
“Well, what do you know,” he said,
picking up something from the kitchen island. “Another note.”
I shut the door and stepped closer,
taking the paper out of his hand.
My love, please don’t leave our home.
If you spend another night away,
I’ll have to pay a visit to your father’s place.
Also, I don’t appreciate your cameras either.
We will meet when the time is right.
I was hoping we could make use of my gifts before the
officers took them.
Too bad. I’ll get you something else when we’re finally
home?” I seethed. “The nerve
of him…” I handed back the note to Mason. “See, how would he know about the cameras
unless he has my apartment bugged?”
“And he knew you’d stop by today. He
followed you.” He placed the note on the island and walked to the window,
peering outside for a beat. Coming back to me, he said, “Okay. Look for
something small, maybe black or metallic, or just anything odd that you haven’t
We began combing the apartment, checking
under the cushions on the couch and under the coffee table.
“You know,” Mason tittered a bit while
looking behind the TV. “I wish I was here under different, happier
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “You and me
both.” I meandered across the living room to the plant by the window and dug in
“Really?” Mason confirmed in a playful
tone. “That’s good to know.”
Riveted by a sudden feeling of shyness,
I couldn’t reply to what he’d said.
He moved to the kitchen and opened up
the cabinets. “So uh, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened with Tyler?”
His question caught me off guard. I stopped
checking the books on my small shelf under the window and stared across at him.
Mason finished going through the cabinets and turned around, waiting, curious.
“He, um…” I dropped my gaze to the floor
and said lowly, “He cheated on me.”
Mason sputtered, “Asshole.”
I shrugged. “Yeah, well, that’s over
with.” When I looked up again, a firestorm started in my stomach and heat
soared through my veins.
Lust radiated from his body. His
piercing eyes, the bulging veins in his neck, and the way his chest went up and
down intensely was maddening. My heart palpitated, so loud in my ears. I was
afraid that Mason would hear it in the dangerous silence that had filled the
“Um, w-we should…” I stammered and
shifted in place, fighting for composure.
“Keep searching,” he said, gesturing to
the hallway. I ambled off to my bedroom and stood in the doorway, remembering
how that pervert had wandered around freely and touched my clothes.
Coming up behind me, Mason touched my
elbow. I shuddered at the close proximity between us and continued into my room
to relax my heart.
“I’ll search through the drawers,” I
said with my back turned, walking to the dresser. “Wanna check the closet?”
“Sure,” he replied in low voice.
Unfortunately, like the officers on the
day before, we didn’t spot anything out of the norm. Mason motioned for us to
return to the living room. “There’s nothing here.”
I followed him out, not ready to stop
“Mason, I can’t give up.” I pleaded with
him, “Let’s keep looking. Please.”
He offered a sympathetic smile before he
began skimming the apartment again. We spent another few minutes rechecking
under tables, the bed, lamps, behind the television, and in the bathroom.
Once again, we found nothing.
Mason threw up his hands, defeated.
“Bristol, there’s nothing here. I don’t know how he knows these things, but I
think we have to rule out the possibility that your apartment is wired. He must
have figured it out some other way.”
I sank down on the couch, sulking. “It
has to be bugged. How else would he know the security code?”
Mason sat beside me. “Okay, besides the
company you used, who else knows the code or about the cameras?”
“No one,” I replied. “Not even my
His head went up and down at my words.
After a moment, he asked, “What about your landlord?”
I scowled. “Mr. Farris? Well, he’s the
one that recommended the security company and helped me changed the locks.”
Mason twitched his mouth, curiosity
looming in his gaze. “
recommended the company?”
He didn’t answer right away, only stared
off into space. It wasn’t rocket science to figure out what he was considering.
“No!” I sprang to my feet. “Mr. Farris
isn’t like that.”
“What makes you so sure?” Mason jumped
up as well. “You said it yourself, Bristol, it could be anyone.”
I placed my hands on my hips and rested
my weight on one leg. “
Mr. Farris. He’s a good person. He isn’t some
At my words, agony warped his features.
He slumped his shoulders in sorrow and peered down at the floor, blowing out a
“That’s what my sister said,” he
I inched forward. “What?”
Looking back at me, Mason explained, “A
few months after my family moved to New Hampshire, my older sister met someone
while she was part-timing at this café near her college. He was an employee at
her school, a janitor. Ariel always had a smile on her face. She was nice to
everybody. That guy took it for something else.”
I watched as Mason collapsed on the
couch, appearing as if life had been drained from him. “He started sending her
gifts—flowers, jewelry, cards, money, you name it. At first she didn’t think
anything of it. She said he was just being nice. Then he showed up at her work
upset one day because he’d seen her laughing and flirting with another guy at
“Ariel got scared and her boss chased
him off, but that didn’t stop him from turning into a full-fledged stalker.”
“Oh my gosh,” I muttered, sitting down.
“He followed her around campus, dropped by
her dorm, found her phone number by breaking into the school’s database and
kept calling her at all hours, and he left her these… inappropriate love
letters in her car and in her mailbox.”
Mason paused to catch his breath. His
eyes reddened from fighting off tears.
“How did she stop him?” I pressed.
He turned his head and stared at me.
Pain twisted his face so much that my heart ached for him.
“She didn’t,” he answered, his jaw
stiffening. “Ariel complained to the school and she got him fired. Then she
filed a restraining order against him, but that only made it worse. Instead of
gifts, he started sending her threats. He violated the restraining order once
and got arrested, but he was release in no time.”
Mason spun and peered into space, his
breathing heavy with anger. “Over time, the stress, the fear of constantly
looking over her shoulder took a hold of my sister. She stopped smiling. She
didn’t go out with friends anymore. She quit her job. Everything for her
just…stopped.” His voice cracked. “And then she….” He broke off again,
overwhelmed by grief.
“What happened?” I urged, hopeful that
Ariel had finally gotten rid of the guy.
A tearful Mason met my gaze and he said
in a sad tone, “She killed herself, Bristol.”
I covered my mouth and muffled, “No!”
“Cops found his body two days later in
his apartment. I guess he shot himself after hearing about Ariel. Bastard. He
took the easy way out.” Turning away from me, he cleared his throat and wiped
his face harshly with the palm of his hand. “I guess they both did. I just wish
I could have done something for my sister, convinced her to keep fighting.”
Wanting to offer him some comfort, I
began rubbing his arm. His skin was warm past the short sleeve of his shirt.
“It’s not your fault, Mason. Ariel did fight. She filed that restraining ord—”
“It wasn’t enough,” he interjected,
gritting his teeth. “What he put her through was terrible, but she shouldn’t
have given up. My family and I… We were all trying to help her.”
“That’s why you’re helping me,” I said.
“You don’t want it to be a repeat of what happened to Ariel.”
His expression turned rigid. “I didn’t
think it was the same at first, but it’s—”
“It’s not the same situation,” I told
him, squeezing his hand. “It’s not.”
He cocked his head to one side, regarding
me as if I were naive. “Bristol, he knows where you work. He followed you to
your dad’s place. He was watching us last Sunday, and he left a clear message
on my car. It might seem small to you right now, but trust me, this is how it
started for my sister. If we don’t figure out who he is, I’m afraid things will
escalate. He will grow bolder.”
“I don’t think it’s like that,” I
whispered, not wanting to believe it. I wasn’t Ariel. I was a fighter, and my
story would have a different ending.
For a moment, Mason sat there observing
me. That warm feeling returned to my chest. I lifted my hand and stroked his
cheek, wiping away a single tear that had broken free.
He covered my hand with his for a short
time, and then eased it away. I wondered how he perceived my gesture, if I had
crossed an invisible line that read: not now.